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Madness and Civilization, The Order of Things, The Archaeology of Knowledge, Discipline and Punish

is a word with three very different meanings in current critical and theoretical usage. First, it is a name for the flow of language, particularly dialogue and spoken language, in specific, practical situations. Discourse analysis attends to the structures and strategies by which we organize even our apparently unorganized verbal exchanges—interviews, for example, or gossip, or the succeeding speeches at a political rally. The second meaning of discourse arises chiefly from the work of the French theorist and intellectual historian Michel Foucault (192684), whose major works are Madness and Civilization (1961), The Order of Things (1966), The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969), Discipline and Punish (1975), and The History of Sexuality (1976, 1984). Foucault uses the term ‘discourse’ to indicate large-scale signifying practices, sometimes called discursive formations, that is, any historically identifiable pattern of verbal and non-verbal behaviour which transmits sets of propositions and implications. The discourse of medicine, for example, includes doctors' handwriting and nurses' uniforms, as well as the language of diagnosis and care. The discourse of the classroom includes the tone and manner of the teacher as well as what he or she says. Such discourses for Foucault are characteristically political: concerned with relations of power. Thus prison architecture and clinical definitions of madness are reflections of a culture's habits of social control, mirrors and instruments of its assumptions about normality and deviance. Finally, discourse is used to translate the Russian sjuzet (and the French récit), meaning the narrative arrangement of events in a story, as distinct from the events themselves prior to or outside the arrangement. (See Plot.)

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Walter John De La Mare Biography to Hilda Doolittle Biography